John Milbank discusses the need for reinvigorating our theological sense of sociality and the reality of a common life. As it stands today, the absence of an ethical economy – mediated through church, synagogue, mosque, union, guild, professional organization, etc. – has left us with “just a big pile of numbers.” According to Milbank,

Belief in the “invisible hand” – as the only remaining economic and social bond – has left us with both rampant individualism and excessive abstraction. And if we go on denying that we have anything concrete in common, then the common good will be reduced to an increasingly unreal idea of wealth – just a big pile of numbers, with most of us assigned very few of them. But now that egotism and virtuality have stopped delivering the economic goods, we are realizing that even capitalism needed more cooperation and reciprocity than liberals have believed.

If you don’t trust your colleagues within your own firm or bank, then a kind of anarchy ensues. To contain the anarchy, we have imposed a form of top-down impersonal management – the sort that kills cooperation, tacit interactive processes and creativity. And so what we are now seeing is rampant de-professionalization, the abolition of any true sense of vocation.

Working people have, of course, faced this for centuries: their guilds, self-regulating bodies and the ownership of their own means of production, homes and workplaces, along with the right to organize their own time and labor, were removed long ago. But now this de-professionalization, this removal of self-regulation and an ethical ethos governing work is hitting the middle classes as well.

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